We have been told that 'giving' is good for us as well as those who we are helping. Is that actually true or is it just a way of encouraging us to give to charity? And what is it that we should give, money, gifts, time or something else?
In biblical terms, giving falls under the seven virtues which were established to counter the seven deadly sins, charity being the applicable virtue here. Altruism is an alternate term for charity. Regardless of what term you use, charity or altruism, both are described as promoting concern for others and being a selfless act.
Science tells us that altruism has been around since the ice age when humans learned to help each other to survive, when we do so the part of the brain associated with pleasure and reward is activated. Endorphins and other chemicals are released which make us feel good and protect our immune system.
I am not even going to start espousing the psychological benefits of altruism. Psychology breaks altruism into four types; nepotistic altruism, reciprocal altruism (mutualism), group-based altruism and moral altruism. Know that each of these types has benefits for your wellbeing. Psychology gives altruism a big ‘tick’.
Research indicates that when we give, we actually do feel better. Numerous studies have also shown that people who give often do better in business. Altruism was found to be one of the most common factors across all cultures when looking for a mate! Altruism has also been found to benefit our learning ability; hence the mantra 'Learn one, do one, teach one' is valid.
I could fill pages with the benefits of altruism, but I won't. All of the science, psychology and research I could find (and there were lots of it) indicates that altruism is good for you as well as for the benefactor.
So what can you give instead of money - give of your time, undertake volunteer work, offer up ideas, join a charitable trust, thank everyone who helps you, or in some cases give silence by not saying hurtful things.
Finally, altruism does not appear to be a selfless act after all because of the rewards we get in return. So what are you waiting for, give and you shall receive.